Want to start up a new healthy habit but can’t get seem to make it stick? This advice from James Clear and his fascinating book Atomic Habits could you give you the push you need to make lasting changes. Here’s a little extract...
The Two-Minute Rule states: “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.”
You’ll find that nearly any habit can be scaled down into a two-minute version:
• “Read before bed each night” becomes “Read one page.”
• “Do 30 minutes of yoga” becomes “Take out my yoga mat.”
• “Run three miles” becomes “Tie my running shoes.”
The idea is to make your habits as easy as possible to start. Anyone can meditate for one minute or read one page. A new habit should not feel like a challenge. The actions that follow can be challenging, but the first two minutes should be easy. What you want is a “gateway habit” that naturally leads you down a more productive path.
A new habit should not feel like a challenge. The actions that follow can be challenging, but the first two minutes should be easy
You can usually figure out the gateway habits that will lead to your desired outcome by mapping out your goals on a scale from “very easy” to “very hard.”
For instance, running a marathon is very hard. Running a 5K is hard. Walking ten minutes is easy. And putting on your running shoes is very easy. Your goal might be to run a marathon, but your gateway habit is to put on your running shoes. That’s how you follow the Two-Minute Rule.
Why the Two-Minute Rule works
People often think it’s weird to get hyped about reading one page or meditating for one minute. But the point is not to do one thing. The point is to master the habit of showing up.
As you master the art of showing up, the first two minutes simply become a ritual at the beginning of a larger routine. This is not merely a hack to make habits easier but actually the ideal way to master a difficult skill. The more you ritualize the beginning of a process, the more likely it becomes that you slip into the state of deep focus required to do great things.
This is not merely a hack to make habits easier but actually the ideal way to master a difficult skill
If the Two-Minute Rule feels forced, try this: do it for two minutes and then stop. Go for a run, but you must stop after two minutes. Start meditating, but you must stop after two minutes. It’s not a strategy for starting, it’s the whole thing. Your habit can only last 120 seconds.
Strategies like this work because they reinforce the identity you want to build. If you show up at the gym five days in a row—even if it’s just for two minutes—you are casting votes for your new identity. You’re not worried about getting in shape. You’re focused on becoming the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts.
We rarely think about change this way because everyone is consumed by the end goal. But one push-up is better than not exercising. One minute of guitar practice is better than none at all. It’s far better to do less than you hoped than nothing at all.
Whenever you are struggling to stick with a habit, employ the Two-Minute Rule. It’s a simple way to make your habits easy.